Riding the coattails of two consecutive appearances in the Atlantic Ten Championship match, the men’s soccer team expects to be tested this season as it tries to maintain a string of success.
With the loss of four starters, including two-time A-10 Defender of the Year Patrick Hannigan, the Owls had many question marks coming into the season, which is now six games old after a 2-1 win over Villanova on Sunday.
The job of filling Hannigan’s shoes fell to true freshman Bryant Hosler. Hannigan’s replacement was originally going to be sophomore Tony Pratico. With Pratico sidelined for now, Hosler gets to showcase his talents and earn the respect of his teammates.
“I do feel a little extra pressure to fill his [Hannigan’s] shoes. It’s a big hole to fill,” Hosler said. “I didn’t think that coming into the season that I would be starting, but I am going to work hard and do my best to get the job done.”
Coach David MacWilliams put Hosler to the test this weekend in the Penn Classic.
The Owls (1-4) fell apart against Lehigh on Friday, dropping a 6-0 decision to the Mountain Hawks. Two days later, senior midfielder Tony Donatelli’s corner-kick goal with 45 seconds to play helped the Owls top Villanova, 2-1. The win gave the Owls a split in the tournament and their first victory of the season.
Prior to Sunday, the Owls sputtered out of the gate this season, losing their first four matches by a combined score of 11-1. Their lone goal came in the first match of the season against Marshall, before they were shut out by West Virginia and Penn in the next two games.
True to form in this young season, the matchup with the Wildcats proved to be a defensive battle. The teams were scoreless heading into the second half, before freshman Ben Marucci notched the game’s first goal and lifted the Owls from their recent offensive deficiencies.
The Owls had a few opportunities to put the game away, but miscommunication wasted a direct kick in the game’s final minutes.
After receiving his second yellow card of the afternoon, senior sweeper Joe Brocker was ejected. Temple was forced to play with a man disadvantage for the last eight and a half minutes.
After the Wildcats tied the game, ‘Nova goalkeeper Jason Friel was called for interference inside the box, setting up an Owls corner-kick opportunity.
Donatelli was elected to take the kick and drilled the ball into the back of the net for the victory.
Donatelli is one of seven returning starters, including A-10 preseason all-conference Brocker, who will be looked on to provide a boost for an otherwise inexperienced team.
“We haven’t learned to play with the lead yet,” Donatelli said. “We fought hard out there [against Villanova] and we were fortunate to get two goals. We didn’t do a great job of playing with the lead, but I think that we are going to learn from it and it should help with our confidence.”
Kevin Maloney can be reached at Kevmaloney33@yahoo.com